December always brings a flotilla of DVD and Blu-ray box sets aimed at holiday gift shoppers. Some are reissues of films and TV shows already available on disc or online, but most holiday bundles feature exclusive extras or new material.
Below are some recommendations from this year's batch of box sets. The listed prices are approximate retail costs, but it really pays to shop around with these things, online or off, especially with the more expensive sets.
Francis Ford Coppola: 5-Film Collection
(Blu-ray, $30, 5 discs)
This bargain box set packages Apocalypse Now and the director's cut Apocalypse Now Redux with three more Coppola films — Tetro, The Conversation and One From The Heart. While all the films here have been issued on DVD and/or Blu-ray before, this is a great price for five Blu-ray titles, and each disc comes with its own set of extras. It's also a chance to see the underrated Tetro, which Coppola has said is his most personal film.
All in the Family: The Complete Series
(DVD, $180, 28 discs)
Back in the day, All in the Family pushed the boundaries of the prime time sitcom and was a huge victory for ambitious artists over cautious network execs. It ultimately paved the way for today's smart and sophisticated TV shows. Pop culture scholars will appreciate this generous set, which collects all 213 episodes of the groundbreaking television series, along with two documentaries, alternate pilot episodes and a new interview with creator Norman Lear.
The Rolling Stones: Charlie is my Darling — Ireland 1965
(DVD/Blu-ray, $75, multimedia box set)
This fascinating tour film flew under the radar a bit among all the other Rolling Stones 50th anniversary hoopla this year. The film chronicles the boys on an early sprint through Ireland, and it's like a time machine back to an era when rock and roll was still new and sexy and dangerous. The film is available on single-disc DVD or Blu-ray for under $20, or the box set adds two bonus CDs, a 40-page booklet, a replica poster and a 10” vinyl record.
Mankind: The Story of All of Us
(DVD/Blu-ray, $30/$35, 3 discs)
I'm a sucker for these History channel specials and their heady mix of dramatic recreations and earnest pop scholarship. From the team that brought you America: The Story of Us comes this rather radically expanded special. Actor Josh Brolin handles narration this time around, and the flash-forward structure of each chapter is interesting — fire leads to forge leads to bronze leads to war leads to nuclear detente.
The Incredible Mel Brooks: An Irresistible Collection of Unhinged Comedy
(DVD, $80, 5 discs)
This quirky Mel Brooks collection packages 65 years (!) of material across five discs: film clips, TV appearances, reunion specials, short films, tributes and other rare footage. Brooks is one of only 11 people in history to earn an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Award, and his work literally spans every medium of entertainment.
The Story of Film: An Odyssey
(DVD, $70, 5 discs)
Film historian Mark Cousins' hugely ambitious 15-part documentary series on the history of cinema, originally broadcast last year in the UK, spans more than 100 years and covers every corner of the globe. The series has earned rave reviews and is already being shelved among the classic scholarly reference works on film history. Odyssey is less a gift than a totally pleasurable semester-long viewing assignment. For the humbly endeavoring film student on your list, this should hit the spot.
Also New This Week:
Jeremy Renner battles rogue government agents in the superspy franchise reboot The Bourne Legacy .
Mark Wahlberg and his teddy bear star in this summer's surprise hit comedy Ted.
Ray Romano returns as Manny the Mammoth in Ice Age: Continental Drift. (I didn't love this one, but my kids did, which is the vote that counts, I suppose.)
Twenty-something New Yorkers navigate the big city in HBO's Girls: The Complete First Season.